Oxford City (0) 1 Bath City (0) 2 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 15 September 2018 – Marsh Lane
Hometown hero Joe Raynes sent his Bathonian brethren back to Somerset elated as his stoppage-time strike earned Bath City victory at Oxford City. For all the world they looked set to return with a frustrating draw courtesy of a deflected Oxford leveller – Adam Mann had given City the lead – and a number of fine saves from home goalkeeper Craig King. But late, late City pressure paid off. They were camped at the edge of the Oxford box, unable to carve out an opportunity via multiple sources. Eventually the ball broke out to Raynes, loitering 25 yards from goal on the right, who charged up and smacked his 91st-minute winner perfectly into the bottom corner. Mann’s goal came from a header, which dropped over the head of King to mark a spell of increased City impetus that came with a change of formation in the second period. Josh Ashby’s equaliser, which was diverted perfectly into the top corner to give sprawling Ryan Clarke no chance, came close to denying the Romans what was an ultimatetly deserved win before Raynes sealed the deal.
For the most part the first period was eminently forgettable, a minority of the action taking place in either final third and what little there was never clear-cut. Oxford’s Kabongo Tshimanga, a nuisance throughout, twice missed the target in the opening 20 minutes, which was the bulk of the attacking action. His first effort was hit on the turn, left-footed, from a throw-in but sailed over the bar, before the frontman raced from almost on the halfway line into the Romans’ box and struck the side-netting. Mann, hoping to add a goal to his two assists from the previous week, had the visitors’ first dig. Jack Batten was allowed the space to run into midfield from deep in his own half and touched the ball on for Mann, who could not get the desired connection under pressure at the edge of the box as King saved. It was the same story at the other end as Ryan Clarke had no trouble holding a shot from centre-half Ben Jeffords, who lingered forward after Zac McEachran had seen a long-range attempt deflected over for a corner. The Marsh Lane crowd would also witness ambitious efforts from Sean Rigg and Ryan Brunt that never came close – the latter bending for a throw-in. Matt Paterson and Mann traded blocked shots for the two sides. The travelling fans were certainly enlivened, then, when Batten drew the first testing save of the afternoon from King, nodding down at the scrambling keeper’s goal as Ross Stearn swung a free-kick to the back post. There was soon more work for King as he dived full-stretch to his left to palm Stearn’s 25-yarder for a corner. The final action of the half was McEachran, brother of former Chelsea youth prospect Josh, latching on to a through ball from midfield and running into plenty of space, only to end up driving high of Clarke’s crossbar.
The Romans came out for the second-half asleep as Oxford instantly had Clarke dropping low for a save. Batten then had to get an important tackle in with Tshimanga primed to shoot in the box. Brunt saw a shot blocked at the other end. They were woken up again with a substitution and change of tack, as John Mills replaced Andy Watkins and joined Brunt up front as City switched to a 4-4-2. With that they improved greatly. A series of set-pieces went unconverted but added good pressure, while they began to find much more space. However, Oxford were still dangerous and found the side-netting through Ashby from a free-kick awarded no more than a foot from the edge of the box. Yet with the next attack came the opener for Mann, rising highest at the back to nod Rigg’s high cross back up and over keeper King. The hosts’ search for an equaliser began with right-back Eddie Jones faking out Anthony Straker and striking a shot into a defender. And they did draw level with a slice of fortune. The City defence found themselves penned back in their area, leaving Ashby with plenty of space to shoot from 25 yards out, his shot taking a slight deflection into the top corner. Instantly there was a chance for the Romans to go back in front when Mann drove a hard cross to the far stick where Rigg headed across goal and wide. Two more headers would test the keeper, with King somehow stretching out every inch to repel Brunt’s shot, and then tipping over Batten’s looping nod from the resulting corner. Late chances continued to come as Rigg half-volleyed into King’s breadbasket from Brunt’s chest down, while Mills could only divert a Straker cross wide. But just when time almost appeared out, Raynes popped up with the winner, to maintain City’s place in the National League South top seven.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Straker (c), Batten, Watkins (Mills 49), Rigg, Brunt, Stearn, Mann, Cundy, Raynes, Morton (Artus 71). Subs not used: Richards, Amankwaah, Hodges.
Scorers: City – Mann (63), Raynes (90+1); Oxford – Ashby (69)
City Bookings: Batten (90)
Officials: R Atkin, I Stewart, Z Jacquart